On the threshold of disaster

Onesh hagadol has descended and our nice, quiet homes have been invaded by the likes of evil gremlins

Just when we thought we were safe, the horror is upon us! More awful than reality TV! More horrible than reruns of the Best of Guy Pines! More chilling than another season of Joey!!! Yes, folks, summer vacation, or as we like to call it, the onesh hagadol, has descended, and our nice, quiet homes have been invaded by the likes of evil gremlins, swiping remote controls and leaving weird programs on our TVs and computers. But if you think that's bad, try catching Threshold, CBS's contribution to last fall's glut of sci-fi, alien invasion programs that left us wishing some nice six-fingered folks would land on the top of Television House in Romema and swipe the remaining episodes before it's too late. Admittedly, we missed the first part of the two-part opening episode, but based on what followed, we think it must have been divine providence that spared us. Too bad, because there were some good people at work here on a show which CBS cancelled even before it ran a full season. The premise isn't very new: a navy ship is suddenly attacked by some kind of UFO, its crew driven crazy, some of them disappearing. Arriving on the scene of the crime is Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey (Carla Gugino, AKA Karen Sisco), a "government contingency analyst" (in case you wondered where your US tax dollars are going) contacted by Deputy National Security Advisor J. T. Baylock (Charles S. Dutton of Roc). Before you can say "Fox Mulder," all the members of Caffrey's hand-picked Threshold investigative "team" - including a "little person" who's an expert on math and linguistics - are having weird nightmares about UFOs and seeing clones of themselves in dreams. Too bad their clones are probably better actors, because overall, the performances and writing in this series come off like... TV performed by aliens. As the plot unfolds, some members of the ship are missing, providing a convenient reason for one of them to show up at Molly's house just around bedtime. He's speaking gibberish, which fits in with most of the script, and disappears after Molly blasts him. We think he just wanted to get away from the dialogue, as in: BAYLOCK: He's not here! MOLLY: Well, that's impossible.... Later, at Threshold Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (yes, there's the obligatory shot of the Washington Monument so we dumb viewers know it's Washington), Molly muses: "I think a part of him came to me for help - I could see it in his eyes!" Groan. While the other members of the team start to have second thoughts, especially Ramsey the mathematician, who speaks Pig Latin fluently, the script reaches new levels of insight. Hanging out in a bar, he's tracked down by fellow team member and government agent Cavannaugh (Black Hawk Down's Brian Van Hurt). RAMSEY: You've seen a lot of guys die? CAVANNAUGH: A few. RAMSEY: You get used to that? CAVANNAUGH: Fortunately, yes. No wonder they're drinking. Of course it turns out that there's something weird about Molly's dad, who disappeared when she was a little girl (shades of Mulder's father and sister) As runaway ship crewman Gunneson tells audio whiz Lucas Pegg from the team after he grabs him, "We're all connected!!!" Yes, none of them has a decent line to say, poor devils, not even in Pig Latin. As the investigation continues, it turns out that dozens of ordinary citizens are affected by the audio signal sent by the aliens. But why, damn it? Oops, sorry, we're beginning to sound like the melodramatic script.... Personally, we think it's that they'd rather listen to some pulses from outer space than the nonsense being bandied about on this short-lived series. Why Channel 1 spent our good TV license fee money on this offering is beyond us, although it's clear you have to pay for some clunkers if you want CBS's CSI efforts as well. Too bad Gugino, whose work as Sisco was pretty entertaining, didn't get better. As for the rest of us, treat your temporary household aliens with respect and skip this series, unless you have a high threshold for malarkey.